Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tchaikovsky - The Shakespeare Trilogy

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

One of the first posts I made in my Cover 2 Cover series was of a double-CD set of Tchaikovsky’s tone poems. In that post, I discussed four of the eight tracks in that set. At that time, all eight tracks were active on YouTube.

Since then, the tracks have been removed; it’s happened to me before, which is why I always back up the tracks into my digital music collection.

All this to say that the tracks we will be discussing this week aren’t available as YouTube clips, but will be available for your listening pleasure on my on-line archive.

Three of the tracks are part of what I call Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare Trilogy, works inspired by the Bard’s plays. The most well-known of the trilogy is the overture-fantasia in B minor Romeo and Julietafter Shakespeare's tragedy (ca.1594), written by Tchaikovsky in October and November 1869, and extensively revised between July and September 1870. The final, definitive version of the score dates from August 1880. Between 1878 and 1881 Tchaikovsky sketched part of a duet scena for an opera on the subject of Romeo and Juliet, using themes from the overture-fantasia. Like it contemporary tone poem Fatum, the first version of the work is dedicated to Mily Balakirev.

Tchaikovsky's fantasia The Tempest after William Shakespeare's drama (ca.1611), was composed and orchestrated between August and October 1873. The Tempest is dedicated to Vladimir Stasov (1824–1906), art historian, critic, and director of the arts section of the Saint Petersburg Public Library who proposed the subject to Tchaikovsky in a letter dated December 1872. The completed score was prefaced by a short programme:

The Sea. The magician Prospero commands his spirit Ariel to create a storm, of which a victim is the fortunate Ferdinand. The enchanted island. The first timid stirrings of love between Ferdinand and Miranda. Ariel. Caliban. The lovers are overwhelmed by their passion. Prospero renounces his magical powers and leaves the island. The Sea.
Hamlet is an overture-fantasia after Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark(1599–1601). It was written and orchestrated by Tchaikovsky between June and October 1888. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest suggested the following programme in three sections:
Elsinore and Hamlet before the appearance of the ghost;
Polonius (scherzando) and Ophelia (adagio) ;
Hamlet after the appearance of the ghost. His death and Fortinbras
An abridged version of the overture-fantasia was later used in Tchaikovsky's incidental music to the play - written in January 1891 for a French production in Saint Petersburg. Hamlet is dedicated to the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

To close off the program, I included from the same Double set the 1812 Overture.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Hamlet (Гамлет), overture-fantasia in F minor, Op. 67 (TH 53)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conducting

The Tempest (Буря) fantasia in F minor, Op. 18 (TH 44)
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt
Eliahu Inbal, conducting

Romeo and Juliet (Ромео и Джульетта) Fantasy-Overture in B minor, TH 42
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Bernard Haitink, conducting

The Year 1812 (1812 год) festival overture in E-flat major, Op. 49 (TH 49)
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Igor Markevitch, conducting

Tracks from Philips Duo 442586

Friday, January 5, 2018

Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)

No. 268 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.

For January, I have planned three montages (two for Friday posts, and one for our first quarterly Tuesday post of the year), and they are all feeding our ongoing “Time Capsules” project for January and February which start a four-month look at the Classical period.

Today’s featured composer is Luigi Boccherini, the Italian classical era composer and cellist known for his courtly and galante style. Boccherini was born in Italy into a musical family. His father, a cellist and double-bass player, sent him to study in Rome at a young age. In 1757 they both went to Vienna, where the court employed them as musicians in the Burgtheater. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid, entering in 1770 the employ of Infante Luis Antonio, younger brother of King Charles III of Spain. Later patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, as well as King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, flautist, and avid supporter of the arts. Boccherini died in Madrid in 1805, survived by two sons. His bloodline continues to this day in Spain.

Boccherini is most widely known for one particular minuet from his String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 (G 275), which open’s today’s montage. This string quintet is a "cello quintet" in that it is scored for a string quartet (two violins, viola, cello) with a second cello as the fifth instrument. We can imaginbe these as “mini concertos” for cello and string quartet intended for Boccherini himself, as he would occasionally join the performing quartet as a performer himself.

After a more “traditional” piano quintet, I conclude the montage with one of his nine guitar quintets, wholly transcribed from earlier string or piano quintets by the composer.

I think you will love this music too!

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 - Year in Review

AS we do at this time every year, let me take a moment to reflect on this past year, the year to come and share my collage YouTube playlist for the year 2017.

2017 Highlights

This was a "stay the course" year for us, with 31 new podcasts (including a few "quarterly podcasts" offered on Tuesdays. We introduced a new series on the Tuesday Blog (Cover 2 Cover) and completed the first set of 122 Listener Guides on our Project 366.

We maintained our bi-weekly presence on TalkClassical but failed to do much on OperaLively this year. No time!

Watch for 2018

As we continue at our monthly pace on Project 366, our Tuesday sjares and Friday Blogs will continue to "feed" our ongoing set of Listener Guides in the "Tine Capsule" series.

I hope to post a few times this year on OperaLively, but don't expect our frequency there (and everywhere else) to change much for the first half of 2018.

Don't be surprised if I start slowing things down a bit in the latter half of 2018 - and certainly in 2019. We have some important projects at home in the next year or two, and my musical activities may have to take a back seat. I hope to have all that behind me by 2020. Stay tuned!

Lastly, thanks to all my readers and followers on my many platforms - including Twitter. I always look forward to hearing from all of you.

Happy New Year 2018!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Beethoven Live!

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

For my final Tuesday Blog for 2017, as promised, here are some year-end fireworks from Mr. Beethoven: two symphonies that were created almost 210 years ago, on the fateful evening of 22 December 1808 - his Symphonies no. 5 and 6, performed in front of a captive audience and captured for posterity.

The first performance is from a radio broadcast of 23 May 1954, the last year of Furtwangler's life with the Berlin Philharmonic. The Pastorale is very slow, ruminative, moving to a different and more bucolic pace with a lingering, sweet quality, almost as though Furtwangler were losing himself in Beethoven's countryside for the last time.

In 1950 Victor de Sabata was temporarily detained at Ellis Island along with several other Europeans under the newly passed McCarran Act (the reason was his work in Italy during Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime). In March 1950 and March 1951 de Sabata conducted the New York Philharmonic in a series of concerts in Carnegie Hall, many of which were preserved from radio transcriptions to form some of the most valuable items in his recorded legacy. From these concets, we are featuring his stirring rendition of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

Both performances are enhanced by the energy provided by the audience - don't you think?

Happy listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) 

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, op. 68 ('Pastoral')
Berliner Philharmoniker
Wilhelm Furtwangler, conducting
(Live, 23 May 1954)


Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, op. 67
New York Philharmonic
Victor de Sabata, conducting
(Live, 19 March, 1950)